Dr. Dean Ornish on His Recovery from Depression

Sometimes it seems like half the people I know are on antidepressants. It’s an epidemic with no end in sight. I’ve learned a lot about clinical depression over the years but I gained an even deeper insight into the subject when I interviewed Dr. Dean Ornish for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.

Ornish is the author of five best-selling books, including his tour de force, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease,  which I can’t recommend highly enough. (Don’t let the title fool you; it should be required reading for anyone who wants to enjoy a healthy, happy life.)

Ornish is a giant in his field. He was recognized as “one of the most interesting people of 1996” by People magazine, featured in the Time 100 issue on alternative medicine, and chosen by LIFE magazine as “one of the 50 most influential members of his generation.” 

Here is the start of his story in my book. It’s the fourth, bolded paragraph that I found especially insightful.

After finishing high school in Dallas, I began studying at Rice University, a small, extremely competitive university in Houston. Over half the students there had graduated either first or second from their high school, and most of them acted as though academic success would define their net worth. It did for me. It’s no surprise that Rice also had the highest suicide rate per capita of any school in the country.

From the beginning, I worried that I wouldn’t do well enough to be accepted to medical school. I got into a vicious cycle—the more I worried, the harder it became to study; the harder it was to study, the more I worried. My mind was racing so fast that I couldn’t sleep. I would lie down and watch the hands of the clock go around and around until morning. At one point, this went on for about ten days in a row.

Becoming that sleep-deprived is enough to make anyone a little crazy, and I got to the point where I couldn’t function at all. I became deeply depressed for two reasons. One was that I thought I was stupid and a fraud, that I had somehow managed to fool people into thinking that I was smart, and now that I was in a school with a lot of really smart people, it was just a matter of time before they figured out what a mistake they had made by letting me in. And the other reason, which was even more painful, was that I had a spiritual vision before I was really ready to handle it. And that vision was: Nothing can bring lasting happiness. The combination of those—feeling like I was never going to amount to anything, and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter—was profoundly depressing.

The worst thing about being depressed, as opposed to just being sad or blue, is that you really feel like you’re seeing the world clearly for the first time, that all the other times you ever thought you’d be happy, you were just deluding yourself. And that’s where that hopelessness and helplessness come from. Because it’s not that you just feel bad today, you feel like you’re always going to feel bad and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s true depression and it’s a lot more common in our culture than most people realize.

I remember one day very clearly—I was sitting in my organic chemistry class when it occurred to me, I’m in so much emotional pain, I’m so tired, I’ll just kill myself and be done with it. Then I can sleep and be at peace forever. It seemed so logical and clear, I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t thought of it before. And in the twisted logic of the moment, some part of me replied, “Because you’re stupid, that’s why!”

What struck me was Ornish’s explanation that a depressed person feels like they’re seeing the world clearly for the first time. I hadn’t realized that and I found it both unsettling and tremendously sad. My heart goes out to those suffering from this horrible affliction. May they recover as Ornish did so that they once again welcome each day instead of dreading it.

Click here to view all my posts related to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.

Click here to see all my posts about suicide prevention.


Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.

Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one.
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to.
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier.

Click here to order your copy of Through God’s Eyes from GodsEyesAmazon.com.
For an inscribed copy, click here to e-mail Phil for information.

Click on the link below to download a FREE 28-page chapter!

Click here to visit the Through God’s Eyes website.

Click here to ask Phil to add you to his e-mail list for updates on his blog and books.

Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.

Like to learn more about Through God’s Eyes? Here is a free 44-page PDF sampler from the book that includes:

• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
• endorsements from authors and thought leaders

Just click on the link below to download your free PDF sampler!

Schedule a Mastery Mentoring phone session with Phil to learn how to apply principles of spiritual living more effortlessly and effectively. Priced affordably! Click here to e-mail Phil for details.


Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.

Order it at GodIsLogical.com.

In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?

Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.

SiSe_fullcover_final.inddPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.

Click here to order Sixty Seconds.

Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers.

Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.

Here is a three-minute video introduction to Sixty Seconds.

Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “Dr. Dean Ornish on His Recovery from Depression”

  1. scott webb Says:

    I know this feeling all too well. It’s both sad and real. I battle so hard and I have to put on such a front at work, and feel like I am being fake happy and this and that. and then I get home from work, I feel like I have to sleep because I am so weak. Then when laying down, you head races about many other things. It’s vicious and seems like I have to ride out the storm until a calm day arrives and I can handle things again for a bit. It’s so tough even while on medication.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    My heart goes out to you, Scott. Many of my family members and friends have been where you’re at. All of them came out of it (and are still on meds) but it was often a long, hard journey much like you described. Best of luck to you.

  3. Frank Says:

    I am not sure if I would characterize it as seeing the world for the first time. That sounds a little revelatory, having been in this state. I would characterize it more profoundly, like all the science in the world says that I should not live anymore (e.g. Darwin says it is time for me to go since I have no productive purpose as a member of my own species). Perhaps type A people are very susceptible to depression because they have the ability to produce at great volumes until changes occur. That is the case for me.

    Depression is strange when you are in it. Established success patterns no longer work, the world seems to turn away from you, and it happens so slowly that it takes you down without a definite drop. That is why revelatory does not capture the concept well.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for your thoughts, Frank. I’ve heard many accounts from people who have come through this that their depression was a huge wake-up call that their life wasn’t working and that big changes needed to be made. You talk about being useful and productive, but that is a purely externalized view of the world. What about the more valuable perspective of going within to find meaning and purpose? Looking outside yourself for what is truly important in life is a quest that ultimately leads to, at best, dissatisfaction, and, at worst, despair.

  5. andy Says:

    To anyone reading this who is suffering from chronic depression: please believe that it can be cured. I had it for almost 40 years and finally got completely rid of it. It IS possible. Much help can be had from bodywork therapies such as Rolfing and cranial-sacral therapy, in conjunction with herbal therapies, strenuous exercise, avoiding much alcohol, and eating healthy food. SAM-e is also a very good supplement, inexpensive, and has little or no side effects. It also affects joint mobility and liver function as well as elevating mood.

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I am very glad to hear that you rid yourself of chronic depression, Andy. Thank you for sharing that and giving hope to others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: